Posts Tagged With: safari in botswana

Mad about Macatoo

Famous for its exciting riding and thrilling game viewing, In The Saddle guests continue to be ‘mad about Macatoo‘. Here are just a few recent comments;

“Exceeded the highest expectations. It will almost certainly remain the most memorable and enjoyable riding experience in 25 years of riding holidays abroad”. (Ingrid, UK).

“Another brilliant ‘holiday of a lifetime’! The highlight of the riding this time was cantering full speed with a group of about 20 giraffe so close we could almost hear their heart beats!” (Linda, UK).

“This was my fourth visit. The riding was excellent as ever. Saw so much game, the highlight being a big male leopard which was just magical”. (Karen, UK).

“The horses are amazing. I cannot think of a single thing to improve. It was absolutely incredible”. (Noga, Israel).

“A fantastic team on site, felt like part of a family or of a group of old friends. Knowledgeable guides with a passion for their country, all this in a very special bit of paradise – loved it !” (Amelie, France).

In other news…

You may already have heard about 23 year old Khwai’s retirement. He has been a firm favourite throughout his working life at Macatoo and many of you will have some wonderful memories of cantering across the Delta on this lovely boy. Khwai is off to Maun for a relaxing retirement. Happy retirement Kwai!

Mod taking Khwai out to the paddock

Mod taking Khwai out to the paddock

Recently Macatoo has gone green with the addition of solar panels. Camp is now operating completely on solar power.

Macatoo goes green! We are now operating completely on solar power!

Showing off the new solar panels

Earlier this month Macatoo was blessed with some much-needed rainfall. Now the bush is looking lovely, with bright green grass and foliage.

Just look at that atmospheric sky!

Just look at that atmospheric sky!

Down at Hippo Lagoon this little one was spotted recently, making a balance-beam out of a fallen tree.

Adventurous cub at Hippo Lagoon

Adventurous cub at Hippo Lagoon

There have been some amazing sightings from the scenic helicopter flights. Why not plan one during your stay to see the Delta with a bird’s eye view?

Hippo pod from above

Hippo pod from above

Want to see what all the fuss is about? Check out this video from In The Saddle guest Kim Simkins: Cantering at Macatoo

Categories: Equestrian Travel, horse riding, Horses & riding, in the saddle, riding botswana, Riding Holidays, Riding Macatoo, Riding Okavango Delta, Riding safaris, Travel news | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lucy Higginson, former editor of Horse & Hound, at Macatoo in the Okavango Delta, Botswana

In February 2015, In The Saddle organised Lucy Higginson’s holiday to Macatoo in the Okavango Delta, Botswana. In her former position as editor of Horse & Hound, Lucy has been fortunate enough to ride in many countries (although she does rank Africa as her favourite destination) and as a guest on many hunts all over the UK.  We have picked this small selection of lovely images.

Lucy Higginson, former editor of Horse & Hound in the Okavango Delta, Botswana

Lucy Higginson, former editor of Horse & Hound in the Okavango Delta, Botswana

Throughout her stay she had some amazing elephant sightings.

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February in the Okavango Delta is known as the Green Season and you can see why from these next couple of images. When the flood waters come in April they flood across much of these plains creating palm tree islands.

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But there are some incredibly dry areas which haven’t seen much flood waters or rain the last few months. And then, in summer months of January to February, there is the possibility of bush fires which run through the dead and dry bush.

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After the fires it can look a bit blackened, but this will only be for a short time and after a shower of rain there will be lots of green shoots which the animals will love. So game sightings over the next couple of months are predicted to be amazing.

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Did you spot the hyaena in the picture above? Here he is a bit closer.

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This cheeky fellow (below) is a reminder of why you should always zip up your tent when you go to lunch or to ride.

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But the highlight of the week was this amazing sighting of the rare wild dog.

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If you would like more information on how to book an In The Saddle horse safari at Macatoo camp, please click here.

Categories: Equestrian Travel, Horses & riding, Riding Holidays, Riding safaris | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Abbie in the Okavango Delta – part 2 – Motswiri

In December Abbie had a two week trip to Botswana visiting Kujwana, Motswiri and Macatoo camps. Having worked in the travel industry for over 8 years, she knew plenty about the camps but are they going to live up to her high expectations. Read on as she visits Motswiri.

“As our little plane nears Motswiri camp I peek through the window and watch immense grey shapes cluster around waterholes joyfully spurting water from their trunks. A few moments later I see huge herds of buffalo seething across the plains as though one solid mass of muscle. Soon after the plane takes off again there are more elephant right in front of us crossing the airstrip…and I know my stay at Motswiri is going to be special.

Elephant on the runway at Motswiri

Elephant on the runway at Motswiri

I’m met at the airstrip by Cliffy who will be my riding guide for the duration of my stay. I am in good hands, as Cliffy has been involved in the guiding industry since 1993. Not only is he an experienced guide and passionate conservationist, but he also trains aspiring new guides and is involved in restructuring the nature guide qualification in Botswana.

As we draw close we are met by the harmonious voices of the staff as they welcome us into camp. After being shown around and hearing about the usual day-to-day route, I am shown to my tent. Wow! It really is fabulous, with a huge high bed giving a great view out over the water, a lovely bathroom with hot/cold running water and a flush loo. In my room I find everything you might need, from shampoo and soap, to insect repellent and mosquito coils. My tent is a short wander from the swimming pool, which is so refreshing after a few hours in the saddle. The central mess tent is superbly located overlooking the spillway, where elephants often come to drink. Sundowners here are often accompanied by the sound of grunting hippo making their way along the water channels.

my really comfortable bed at Motswiri!

My really comfortable bed at Motswiri!

In camp with me are a Swiss couple, who are on safari celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary. Therys is a non-rider, but tells me what a wonderful stay they have had so far. Each day she has been out with two guides on fabulous game walks and exciting game drives. She tells me it has been the perfect trip, because they have each been able to take part in their favourite activities, but mealtimes, sundowners and afternoons have all been spent together.

I am given Mopani to ride, a stunning liver chestnut gelding who is fit and ready for action. The saddles are comfortable South African trail saddles, although English saddles are available if you prefer. My first afternoon ride takes us along the river. As we round a bend in front of us a disgruntled hippo has been pushed from his watery wallowing place by a large herd of elephant. Our horses graze and we watch enchanted by these amazing creature so close to us. The elephant cross the river as the young ones splash and play. I’ve never seen a hippo out of the water before and it is an amazing sight!

hippo out of water is an amazing sight

Hippo out of water is an amazing sight

We ride back to camp, where the stable staff are waiting to take the horses from us. We dismount to the sounds of popping corks, as the champagne is opened to celebrate our arrival. Sundowners are enjoyed on ‘Motswiri beach’ as we recount our adventures and look forward to what tomorrow might bring.

I am visiting in December, when the days are warm and the bush is green and lush. Cliffy tells me in October the bush is drier but there is more water around. Having said this, there was more water then I was expecting – we still waded through plenty of water and had some fabulous splashy canters.

A real thrill between May and September is the opportunity to ride to fly camp for a night and experience riding in a totally different area.

the very comfortable fly camp

The very comfortable fly camp

Next morning our ride takes us out onto the floodplains, which in the flood season are completely full of water. Right now (in December) there is still a good amount of water left – enough for some refreshing splashy canters which have us grinning from ear to ear. We ride to an ancient baobab tree, a beautiful spot for a snack break. As we make our way along the edge of a forest we hear buffalo not far away and at one point we catch sight of them. Next moment we are crossing over to the other side of the bank and as if from nowhere, we spot a long table laid out for lunch! We dismount and pat our horses, and as if on cue a big herd of elephant cross in front of us.

A spectacular sight at lunch

A spectacular sight at lunch

In the afternoon I try out a new horse called Roman, a Namibian Warmblood. He is cheeky, forward going and great fun. We spot tsessebe, impala and warthog and just catch sight of a beautiful antelope which Cliffy thinks is Oribi.

Next day we ride to King’s Island and have great fun popping over logs and fallen trees. Roman, Sambuca, Mr B and Amigo seem to love the chance for some bush cross country as much as we do! My final morning ride is a long one to Hippo Pools. We have plenty of fast riding along vehicle tracks and over the flood plains, the horses expertly hopping over the fish nest holes. After a few hours we reach our destination and pause to watch about ten hippos in their big pool of water. One female is really curious about the horses and gets closer and closer to us. Finally she plucks up the courage to leave the water and comes within about 10 metres of us, before turning and going back into the water. Not long afterwards, we are riding through a wooded area and come upon a breeding herd of elephant. Some of them are eating and others are digging the ground for minerals. As we begin to skirt around the herd, a big bull elephant begins to charge. But we stand our ground and he pauses, then turns his back to us and retreats. What a way to finish off my time at Motswiri!

Abbie at Motswiri

Abbie at Motswiri

You can read more about the fantastic In The Saddle horse safaris at Motswiri here.

Categories: Equestrian Travel, Horses & riding, Ride reviews, Riding safaris | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Abbie’s trip to the Okavango Delta – part 1 – Kujwana

In December I packed my bags ready for a longed-for trip to Botswana’s Okavango Delta. Having worked in the travel industry for over 8 years, I’d learnt plenty about our camps there and always enjoyed hearing about our guests’ experiences on their return. Even though December isn’t usually considered the prime time to see the Delta, I had high expectations. Would the ‘Jewel of the Kalahari’ live up to its reputation?

From the very start of my two week trip I am on a high. My senses are overloaded; glistening ribbons of water meandering over the flood plains as we fly overhead, elephant walking into camp during dinner, lion roaring in the night so close to camp we almost think we can feel his breath, a surprise champagne lunch in the bush and swimming in the Xudum River as little fish nibble at our toes.

Most guests arrive into camp in style with a helicopter transfer from Maun to camp. But since I am visiting in the dry season, we can be driven into camp in a game drive vehicle. We are met at Maun airport by one of Kujwana’s longest –serving guides Person. He expertly negotiates rickety bridges and deep sand during our 3.5 hour journey to camp. Although only the beginning of our adventure our road transfer is a great introduction to the Delta, as we see zebra, kudu, leopard tortoise, giraffe and elephant.

The fantastic bridge into camp.

The fantastic bridge into camp.

We are met on arrival in camp by owners PJ and Barney Bestelink and their team. Barney takes me to the stables to introduce me to the horses. They are contented, glossy and cherished. We watch from a rise in the ground as the horses are put away in their barns. Barney assessing each horse’s well-being as they trot towards their stable.

My tent is gorgeous; spacious and airy atop a decked platform overlooking the river. My bathroom has a flush loo, hot and cold running water, soft fluffy towers, soap, shampoo and shower gel – bliss! As we sip pre-dinner drinks around the fire, the African sun slips towards the horizon turning the sky beautiful shades of soft velvety orange. Gathering around the dining table we are treated to stories of close encounters, fishing successes and exciting rides. Fellow guests Helena and Dan, David, Richard and Coco have had the time of their lives.

Next morning I am woken with tea in my tent at 5am. Breakfast is eaten around the fire as the sun rises over the plains. For my first ride I am teamed with Mahale, a stunning chestnut Arab. Led by experienced guide Thabu, we head out across the Delta, swishing through tall grasses and splashing through streams. We are treated to excellent sightings of buffalo, giraffe, zebra and hippo. We also see the plucky little honeyguide, giant eagle owl and saddle billed stork.

I see a group of buffalo on our first morning ride

I see a group of buffalo on our first morning ride

Mahale, also known as ‘Mr Posh’ is a real delight. He is well-balanced, polite and willing, with a special presence rarely seen in a safari horse. After two hours or so we dismount and walk the horses on foot for about 10 minutes. Mid-way through our ride we stop in the shade for a snack as the horses graze nearby. We are back at camp by around 11am, giving time for a refreshing dip before lunch. During siesta time, we head back to our tents to sleep off the heat of the day. Afternoon tea refreshes before we head out on the mokoro with our guides. It is such a peaceful way to see the Delta and so relaxing (if you are not poling!).

A mokoro trip is a very relaxing way to experience the delta.

A mokoro trip is a very relaxing way to experience the delta.

The next day is an exciting one as we bid Kujwana camp goodbye and head to Moklowane camp on horseback. Today I ride the mighty Mpumalanga, a grey Boerperd whom PJ describes as “the perfect safari horse”. He’s not wrong; Mpumalanga is sure-footed, experienced in front of game, eager to go, but easy to stop. He adjusts his stride easily as we pop over puddles or dips in the ground. It is almost as though he has lived before; he seems all-knowing and very wise! We spot wildebeest, buffalo and giraffe, the rare roan antelope and the curious-looking tsessebe. Our mud-spattered faces grin with glee as we canter across open ground. We stop to let the horses drinks at a large pool; lead guide Rogers never stops scanning the horizon for game. His eyesight is truly amazing. “It’s because he has never had to sit in front of a computer,” PJ tells us.

We reach a wooded area dotted with palm trees and a young male giraffe ambles close to us. As we emerge on the other side of the wood, suddenly Rogers stops, focussing on something at the base of an island. We follow his gaze and just make out a barely-there golden shape. All is quiet as we question our eyesight. “Lioness,” breathes Rogers. We watch in silence for a few precious moments before PJ signals to Rogers to lead the group quietly away.

Lioness and cub (viewed from a safari vehicle!)

Lioness and cub (viewed from a safari vehicle!)

Less than a mile further on a small army of Kujwana’s staff are waiting to greet us. Our horses are un-tacked, groomed and fed and then led out to graze. We pile into the waiting vehicle and are off in search of the lioness. Skirting the wood we search for the lioness and finally see her lying in the shade. Well-camouflaged she is relaxing contentedly, two exquisite cubs gambolling beside her. We gaze at her for 20 minutes or so, until it is time to leave her to her family. Back at the picnic spot a delicious lunch is served; quiche, fresh bread, salad and potatoes, washed down with cold drinks from the cool box. Camp beds are set out for us in the shade to relax on after lunch. Having had the chance to pack a ‘day bag’ before leaving Kujwana, we can change into shorts and then relax with a book.

After whiling away a few hours, we drink tea, still dozy from our siestas. Soon it is time to mount up for the final few hours in the saddle. Approaching Moklowane you can see that the vegetation is quite different, with taller bush and large islands dotted with palm trees. We have some splashy canters and Al and I argue gently about whose horse would win in a race. In some dense bush we have wonderful elephant sightings. I love the deep slow rumble of these magnificent animals (my favourites!).

doesn't really need a caption!

doesn’t really need a caption!

Moklowane camp is north of Kujwana, situated on the Matsebi River. Five tree houses line the river, high up in the tree line so as to appreciate the view. The beds are under cover, but open to the elements at the front. The en-suite bathrooms have hot and cold running water, a sink and flush loo. We wander down to the deck gin and tonic in hand. We watch the sunset and re-live the adventures of the day. I am so sad to be leaving and wish I could stay longer.

Spacious treehouses at Moklowane

Spacious treehouses at Moklowane

People go on safari for many different reasons; perhaps to get away from it all, to see the ‘real’ Africa, to spot game and to experience a true wilderness. A fellow guest turns to me and says, “this is the best thing I could ever have bought for my wife”. And that’s it; this is no relaxing beach holiday, it is no ordinary gift. This is an experience, something that will stay with you forever. It is something you can keep in your mind for years to come. The horses you have ridden, the game you have seen, the laughs, the thrill, it’s all there to be conjured up in your memory whenever you want. Priceless? Yes I think so.

Abbie at Kujwana on Mpumalanga

Abbie at Kujwana on Mpumalanga

You can read more about the In The Saddle holidays at Kujwana here:

Categories: Equestrian Travel, Horses & riding, Ride reviews, Riding Holidays, Riding safaris, Travel news | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

An invitation to celebrate two BIG birthdays in Botswana

Two of our In The Saddle team members, Chris Day and Cathy Holloway, have ‘big’ birthdays coming up in 2014 and have decided to invite passionate travellers and horse riders to join them in the celebrations! The pair of them are marking these milestones by taking a little trip to revisit old haunts and hope to create some fabulous new memories that will travel with them into the next decade!

Where better to celebrate an important birthday than in beautiful Botswana? Often described as the ultimate riding safari trip, a horseback adventure in Botswana promises abundant and varied game, extremely experienced and knowledgeable guides and well-schooled horses! It is no wonder that Chris and Cathy have chosen this destination as their ‘party’ venue!

Chris (left) and Cathy (right) together in the UK with their canine friends Paddy (left) and Inca (right)!

Chris (left) and Cathy (right) together in the UK with their canine friends Paddy (left) and Inca (right)!

Having travelled to Botswana previously, the country has well and truly got under both Chris and Cathy’s skin. They have been taken under the spell of the vast open spaces, beautiful climate and privileged feeling of being in close proximity to some of nature’s most spectacular animals! Now, with the excuse of birthday celebrations, they want others to join them in experiencing the thrill and wonders that Botswana has to offer!

25th – 30th March
Starting separately, from 25th – 30th March, Cathy will be going to Makgadikgadi Pans to explore the remnants of a vast lake that dried up around 1,500 years ago from horseback. What is left is a flat landscape with an immense skyline that appears to go on forever and you will have the opportunity to see shy brown hyaena, some of the largest baobab trees in the world, local meerkat and enjoy walks with bushmen to learn about this fascinating part of Africa. As an additional bonus, in February/March the Makgadikgadi experiences its own migration meaning the landscape should be teeming herds of zebra and wildebeest – a spectacle not to be missed!

Cathy at Makgadikgadi Pans with zebra on the horizon

Cathy at Makgadikgadi Pans with zebra on the horizon

Meanwhile Chris will be at Kujwana. Situated on the banks of the Xudum River in the Okavango Delta, this personal safari has luxury accommodation and is run by PJ and Barney Bestelink who have an intimate knowledge of the wildlife and ecosystems of the Delta, acquired over 25 years. Explore a maze of papyrus lined waterways, meadows and woodland rich in birdlife and game, canter alongside herds of wildebeest and zebra and get up close and personal to Africa at its most beautiful.

Chris at Kujwana on a previous trip

Chris at Kujwana on a previous trip

30th March – 3rd April
Next up will see the pair unite at Motswiri from 30th March – 3rd April. Motswiri is a luxury camp set on the edge of the Selinda Spillway and its positioning enables guests to experience both the open flood plains of the Delta, as well as the contrasting riverine forests. Even if camping has never been on your agenda, the luxurious accommodation at Motswiri will take your breath away – as you watch the wildlife and scenery from your own veranda overlooking the Spillway, you will easily forget the damp chilly British winter and enjoy the feeling of freedom and escape in beautiful Botswana. 

The riding at Motswiri is exciting and exhilarating but there is also the opportunity to enjoy non-equestrian activities such as game walks, game drives and canoe trips – perfect if you are looking to take a non-riding partner along for the adventure!

Cathy enjoying the spectacular scenery at Motswiri

Cathy enjoying the spectacular scenery at Motswiri


3rd – 7th April
Last, but definitely not least, the commemorative trip will draw to a close at Macatoo. Situated on the western side of the Okavango Delta, Macatoo is a luxury bush camp, recently renovated, which offers riders the experience of a lifetime. Riding beautiful, fit and well cared for horses you will enjoy a variety of riding; from an early morning gallop on the plains alongside giraffe or zebra to splashing your way through waterways and tracking elephant as you explore the palm studded islands. This area is known for the ‘big five’ and you can expect to see plenty of giraffe, elephant, buffalo, many species of antelope and even lion.

Chris enjoying an adventure at Macatoo

Chris enjoying an adventure at Macatoo

Any competent rider is invited to join this exciting adventure across Botswana, and help the girls celebrate their birthdays in style! Whether you want to come along for just one element, or the whole journey – we can promise a fun, exciting, and exhilarating trip packed full of one-off experiences, with a wonderful crowd of likeminded people – everything you would expect from any In The Saddle holiday!

To find out more give us a call on 01299 272 997 or drop us an email at rides@inthesaddle.com

Categories: Equestrian Travel, Horses & riding, Riding expeditions, Riding Holidays, Riding safaris, Travel news | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Save on safaris this summer

Many horse riders dream of galloping across open plains, getting close to wild animals and pursuing the ultimate equestrian adventure in Botswana. 2013 could be the year this dream becomes a reality as In The Saddle unusually have special offers running for two of the most spectacular horseback safari destinations in Africa…

Safaris taken from Kujwana Camp between 19th July and 16th August 2013 will now be offered at mid-season rates providing travellers with a saving of £75 per person per night.

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Kujwana is a highly personalized horse safari in the remote western region of Botswana’s Okavango Delta and offers visitors the unique chance to explore an astonishing maze of papyrus lined waterways, meadows and woodland rich in birdlife and game. Run by PJ and Barney Bestelink – who have built up over 25 years worth of intimate knowledge of the ecosystems in the Delta – you can embark on a five, seven or ten night safari riding well trained horses and staying in luxury tented accommodation and tree houses. Save £525 per person on the seven-night safari or £750 on the ten-night safari.

Take a horse safari at Motswiri Camp between 16th and 30th September 2013 and despite it being peak season, holidaymakers will only pay mid season prices, generating a saving of £60 per person, per night.

In The Saddle at Motswiri, Botswana email
Set on the edge of the Selinda Spillway, a safari at Motswiri gives you the opportunity to explore the Okavango Delta at its finest, whilst also enjoying the contrasting riverine forests to the east of the camp. There is a multitude of activities on offer making this perfect for non riders, from walking safaris, boat trips and 4 x 4 adventures, and the small number of guests makes it feel personal. Accommodation is in beautiful tents that each have their own veranda overlooking the Spillway where elephants regularly come to bathe and drink! Save £360 per person on a seven-night safari.

For more information about these rarely available special offers from In The Saddle email rides@inthesaddle.com, tel: +44 1299 272 997 or visit www.inthesaddle.com

Categories: Equestrian Travel, Horses & riding, Riding safaris, Travel news | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Age is nothing but a number

Recently, 74 year old Stephen Theunissen returned from his sixth riding holiday with In The Saddle since his retirement in 2004 and we couldn’t wait to catch up with such an inspirational gentleman for our latest blog…

Stephen rode from the age of 6 or 7 years old up to his mid teens, when, in his own words, he got ‘distracted by motorized devices,’ as many young men do! However this foray into equestrianism had obviously already taken hold and in 1972, when he was in his early 30’s, he was motivated to take the hobby back up when his girlfriend at the time was a keen rider. “I didn’t actually marry her,” Stephen admits, “and my wife now really doesn’t like horses! However I was hooked and continued riding from then on.”

Steve
“At the time I was living near Windsor and used to ride at stables situated on the edge of the Great Park. I remember when I rode on Sundays we would often see Her Majesty driving her old 3 litre Rover to take what we assumed was a swift one with her mother after church!”

“I continued to ride casually and my eldest daughter took to horses,” Stephen tells us. “We had moved to Suffolk by this time and when she reached her early teens she persuaded me to buy my first horse. As I was over 50 years old at this time this action caused my father to call my older brother and ask him if I had lost my marbles!”

“By the time my daughter was 16 she had put on a growth spurt and was increasingly keen on Pony Club activities and competitions, so we bought a 16.2hh Irish Draught X who was a splendid jumper and cross country horse, but a little slow so he was never going to compete seriously at senior level. When my daughter was at boarding school and then university I used to exercise him and even went out with the East Anglia Bloodhounds when I could! In 2004, when I got round to retiring, it was looking after the old boy that kept me fit and healthy!”

Elephant at Limpopo open country
It was also at the point of retiring that Stephen indulged in a lifelong ambition to go on a horseback safari. “Initially I had a goal to go on at least one safari ride,” he admits. “So I went to Macatoo in the Okavango Delta and enjoyed myself greatly. I liked it so much in fact that I booked to go to the Tuli Block the next year to a destination that was then run by the couple who now own Limpopo Valley Safaris, Louise and Cor. “

Limpopo elephant waterhole from tree hide
“Here was real elephant country and that gave some very exciting riding,” explains Stephen. “Around the camp was 6000 volt electric fencing that the elderly matriarch elephants would push young males through to get the oranges on occasions! I remember there was a water pump system that supplied a pool just outside the camp which the elephants used to come and drink from during the day. Usually, by the time we returned home from our evening ride, they would be long gone but on one occasion I remember them being there into dusk. After waiting for some time we had to run into the camp via the back entrance to be welcomed by our Gin and Tonics at the stables! It was a little hairy but exciting nonetheless.”

Limpopo view from the shower room
“The other thing that stands out from my trip to the Tuli Block was seeing lions from horseback,” Stephen divulges. “We were told that as long as we were 60 metres away from them we were quite safe, and luckily there was dried up river between us and them which would have taken some effort to venture across. We stood for some time and then quietly made our way to a a line of bushes and then had one of the longest canters I have ever had! It was on that trip that I got to canter with giraffe – who have the most amazing movement – and saw the Great Grey Green Greasy Limpopo River, which was actually dried up at the time – but made for very nice riding!”

Rascal at Limpopo
“The next trip I planned to do was Jordan but unforeseen circumstances meant that had to be cancelled so I went on the Dolphin Trail in Portugal instead,” explains Stephen. “It was very different riding amongst the Cork Oaks and along beaches on Lusitano horses, but interesting and fun in its way. Then I went to Okapuka in Namibia where we rode Arab horses. A very nice lady who bred them ran it and she had this amazing rough and ready turnout paddock that was 1300 hectares in size! When the foals were weaned they were left to run free for a 2/3years. The fences were high enough to stop the horses getting out, but low enough that giraffe , ostriches and antelopes could get in. This meant that the young horses became entirely habituated to the animals and by the time they had a saddle on their back they were at ease with the wildlife.”

Ant's Nest the hunt
“After that I asked the team at In The Saddle what I should do next, and it was recommended to me that I go to Ant’s Nest for the annual round up and census,” Stephen says. “It was a great suggestion! The first day we searched for buffalo that were due to be sold to a private game reserve. Off we rode in a group of about 22 of us staff and guests on horseback and guided by a helicopter to help us find them. We located the buffalo in a thicket and the vet went in to dart them with a rifle and sure enough four darted buffalo came out, two of them towards me. My horse at the time decided to back his silly self into a thorn bush instead of walking quietly away, which to my dismay was all captured on a video! Once caught the sedated buffalo were loaded onto a flat bed trailer and we watched from a safe distance hoping the vet had got his calculations right and they weren’t going to wake up!”

The catch
“During my trip to Ant’s Nest we went out on giraffe and antelope capturing expeditions in vehicles and spent four days counting animals. .The evening rides were very civilised , at the end of the ride we would reach a clearing where there were chairs and cold( alcoholic) drinks laid out. We then untacked the horses who were allowed to wander back to the stables by themselves! We eventually followed by Land Cruiser.”

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“I also distinctly remember the Ant’s Nest bred rhinos, which were located near to the house so they could keep an eye on them due to the threat of poachers.” Stephen goes on to say, “I remember a pair rhino walking towards a group of us on one occasion and an elderly black Labrador barked ,sat down and sent the rhinos on their way! They obviously knew who was boss! I would recommend anyone who loves animals to join this trip to Ant’s Nest – it was spectacular!”

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“I have just returned from the Green Island Trail on the Azores,” Stephen tells us. “I had an excellent time and enjoyed some fast riding and beautiful country the only problem was fighting the temptation to over-indulge in the excellent food! I was in great company, with four English ladies and two Germans, I being the solitary male! I have always found that the people on these trips have other interests and experiences as well so always enjoy myself socially. On every holiday I have been on the people have been interesting – one of the German women on this trip was on her 20th riding holiday!”

Vivaldi looking for his evening carrot in the dining room at Azores
“So now at the age of 74, the question is where next?” Stephen asks. “My only regret is not taking up riding holidays earlier in my life, but now I have the perfect occupation for a healthy pensioner to take part in – I can’t think of a better way to spend my time!”

Categories: Equestrian Travel, Horses & riding, Ride reviews, Riding Holidays, Riding safaris, Travel advice | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Harriet Walker’s African Adventure: The last safari

As Christmas approached we came to the end of Harriet Walker’s African Adventure. Read her last blog, first published on horseandhound.co.uk, as she finishes her time at Limpopo Valley Horse Safaris in Botswana

I have just come back from my last safari; a three day trip into the bush. It was a beautiful reminder of how beautiful this country is – although for me I wasn’t feeling 100% having suffered some kind of allergic reaction that resulted in a very swollen face! On my last game drive we saw a pregnant lioness, which was such a stunning sight. All the guides know the area and wildlife so well that they know what animals belong to which families, so you get a real inside knowledge into their existence. I quite like knowing that despite the animals being wild there are still people that would notice if one of them wasn’t there!

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There is nothing like nature to remind you that you are powerless in its hands! On a recent Lodge to Lodge ride one of the camps had an African Bee Hive and they apparently go crazy for fresh cut grass so started stinging the horses. All but one horse broke free and returned to the stables safely – it is amazing that despite it being 25km away as the crow flies, they all naturally knew to come back to the main base. Unfortunately one horse, Rhodes, stayed with the grooms and got stung so badly he passed away. We had a vet out here at the time that was doing a few days safari in exchange for treating all of the horse’s backs and doing their teeth – so she helped ice bandage legs and treat stings and did all she could for Rhodes but sadly he didn’t make it which was very sad, especially as he was such a popular horse with our guests.

One of the things I love about Limpopo Valley Horse Safaris is that the horses really are the priority and Louise is so particular about their care and management. Whether it be bringing out a trainer to help teach the staff how to ride them more effectively, or a vet to keep them in peak health – this all adds to the guest’s experience and ensures the horses are in the best condition. This is the reason that companies like In The Saddle are so happy to work with them – because they meet all their criteria, not just for an exceptional trip, but for the good of the animals as well.

We always have a cook on site and unfortunately she was unwell towards the end of my stay which meant that I had to step up to the culinary challenge of cooking afternoon tea and dinner for the guests! I absolutely loved it and it is right up my street, especially as I am going to University in September to study Food Science. I have never cooked South African style food before so it was great to learn! One dish in particular I really enjoyed was called Bobotie – it is a curry dish with raisins and lots of spices and a layer of eggs on top! So not only have I learnt a lot about Africa but I got the chance to embrace my inner domestic goddess too!

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The experience at Limpopo Valley Horse Safaris has been amazing. I got to go on 5 game drives in all and see all the wildlife I could imagine, I also got to school beautiful horses, including Foxy who will always stay close to my heart, and I didn’t want to leave! Having seen other safaris happening whilst I was there on the reserve I can honestly say that seeing this part of the world by horseback is the best way to do it if you can ride. You get to see animals and scenery from a whole different perspective. You also get to go on game drives as well so you really do get the best of both worlds!

I have also made a friend for life in Kate who is here teaching the local children (including Cor and Louise’s) at Limpopo Valley Horse Safari’s own primary school. She is doing a fantastic job out there to give the kids a head start in their education – we have already arranged to meet up when she returns to England in January. Louise and Cor have been fantastic hosts, I can’t thank them enough for giving me the opportunity to experience the equestrian world in such a different way!

Read the original blog on Horse & Hound.

Categories: Equestrian Travel, Horses & riding, Ride reviews, Riding safaris, Travel news | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Harriet Walker’s African Adventure: Embarking on the first mobile safari

Harriet Walker is swapping hunting and horses in Leicestershire for three months as a working pupil at Limpopo Valley Horse Safaris in Botswana. Follow her journey on www.horseandhound.co.uk as she jets off on her very own African adventure…

I have just returned from my first mobile safari, staying four nights in ‘the bush’ with some of our guests from In The Saddle, and having experienced true outdoor life – a bush bathroom and washing outside – I can honestly say it was fantastic!

I hear that the weather in the UK has been ‘typically British’ and I have to admit to seeing my first drop of African rain. However it is a far cry from what we have back home! In Botswana when it rains, it pours, but unlike the grey drizzle and damp that I am used to the rain lasts for a matter of minutes and returns to glorious sunshine straight afterwards. The great thing is that it refreshes the temperature, so all the animals come out – meaning that our guests get to see even more game than normal!


I was riding Foxy again to give him experience and show him what life is like on a safari, he was so good and took it all in his stride. The riding is really fun on safari, especially in the Tuli area of Botswana. You walk quite a bit so you can take in the sights and also negotiate some of the more challenging terrain, but equally there are some lovely places to go for long canters and jump logs and ditches if you wish.

One evening when I was on nightwatch, there were a pack of hyenas around 15 metres from the camp because a Zebra had died on the edge and they were making the most of the meal. I did find it a little daunting at first but out here it is just part of life.


While we were out on safari we also did a game drive, which was amazing. On horseback you try and avoid cats – for obvious reasons – but when you are in the car you can get closer. We saw nine cheetah and four lions, amongst other animals. There was a lioness with her three one-month-old cubs , they were so cute and looked like little puppies – playing and chasing each other. The cheetah were hunting wildebeest, so we got to see them stalking their prey and hiding in the bushes. It is so surreal to watch this all happen and think that this is just nature and really does happen every day!

I am thoroughly enjoying my trip, although I am feeling quite tired after the safari, the staff sleep outside under the stars, which is beautiful but you are naturally more alert, and getting up at 5am every morning to get the horses ready to leave by 6am, together with around 6 hours in the saddle means long days!


My main job when we are out with guests is to school and get horses used to going on safari but I also help waitress during meals, clean tack, and generally look after the horses. One of the things that still makes me smile every time is that West, our guide, cracks the bull whip just before we arrive at camp to alert the staff ahead who have set up camp, and three grooms will be standing waiting to take the guests’ horses the second we arrive.

The Tuli Safari is one of the most thrilling and exciting adventures I have ever been on and I can’t wait for the next one!

As published on www.horseandhound.co.uk on 25th October 2012

Categories: Equestrian Travel, Horses & riding, Ride reviews, Riding safaris, Travel news | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The final countdown to the Riding Holiday Show 2012

On Saturday 3rd November, the Royal Overseas League near Piccadilly in London will host the UK’s only exhibition dedicated solely to equestrian travel. Brought to guests by horseback holiday experts, In The Saddle, the show promises an action packed day full of information about inspirational equine adventures all across the globe.

With over 37 different riding outfitters coming to the Riding Holiday Show, attendees will feel like they have travelled around the world and back, with representatives visiting from Tunisia, Argentina, France, Italy, America and Africa – to list just a handful! To see the full list of exhibitors click here.


Visitors will all be entered into a range of exclusive competitions, including the chance to win a £5,000 Safari at Motswiri in Botswana for two, a short break at Los Alamos in Spain for two, and goodies from Ariat, Just Chaps, The Safari Store and Cotswold Outdoor! In addition, goody bags will be given to every person who walks through the door containing exclusive show vouchers to help you save money when purchasing all your riding holiday packing essentials!

As if this wasn’t enough, throughout the day there will be a full schedule of presentations from all manner of equestrians, including Olympic medallist Mary King, Cor Carlesen from Limpopo Valley Horse Safaris, Anna Wirth from Rocking Z Ranch in Montana and Major Richard Waygood MBE! Click here for a full timetable of presentations and to plan your trip to the Riding Holiday Show 2012.

Categories: Equestrian Travel, The Riding Holiday Show, Travel news | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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